Thursday, July 24, 2014

PRETTY FLOWERS, INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Flowers and fence, image courtesy of southernliving.com
Just some pretty color mixed with the greens and of course a great rustic split rail type fence.  I'm in a flower kind of mood lately.  Just enjoy looking for pictures of flowers in a rural type setting.  Someday they will come in handy as we begin the process of planting along fences around the property.  

I like this color palette as well, green of course and then the yellow, white and pink flowers are a nice combination.  

Be inspired!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

RAISED BEDS, MULCH AND THE BATTLE OF WEEDS




Oh, so it's going to be like this huh? Little weeds popping up here and there?  Well I can take care of that!




BOOM!  Gone!  Just like that!  That'll teach you!




Whoa, wait, where did YOU both come from?



Sigh, it's going to be a never-ending battle of weeds in the mulch but at least, at this point anyway, it's going to be easy to pull them up...?




Whoa, not so fast.  A few weeks after those first photos, weeds and grass are sprouting up everywhere.



They are coming up almost faster than I can keep up.  Oh wait, did I say "almost" faster?  They are coming up faster than I can keep up.  Sigh.
Weeds in a raised bed
We have always said our blog wouldn't shy away from the missteps either, and here is one of those.

Yeah, it was easy in the beginning but not so much now.  This is one of three raised beds (empty beds, no veggies) that have gotten totally out of control.  Imagine this times three.  Notice there is even some weed block cloth (albeit not enough) on the surface already.  On a daily basis, I'm sure I could keep them at bay, but on a weekend basis, it's just as I said, a never ending battle to keep them out.  We want to stay organic so I don't want to use Round Up, but I'm afraid we might not have any choice.  I've tried vinegar but it's not working.

I'm going to use the bricks I recently gathered up that were scattered around the property and put a covering of some sort on there and see what I can do to eradicate the jungle that is rapidly taking over the beds.  It's my fault for not covering them to begin with but now I have to figure out a solution that will work.  I'm gathering up newspapers from people at work to put down, any suggestions on how to smother the weeds out easily?  


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

QUILTED STUFFED ANIMALS

Quilted stuffed animals
These are a couple of stuffed bears that my Mom found once upon a time.  They aren't family heirlooms or anything like that, I think she found one at a tag sale and another at a thrift store, but we like them.  They are on the guest room bed at the farm, which contains a lot of my Mom's favorite pieces of furniture and her favorite colors, pink and yellow.  We were going to get a few pillows but...

Farmhouse guest room bed
...every time we look at them on the bed, it makes us think that they seem kind of lonely.  So, we'd like to add a few more.  I'm sure I could find some on eBay or Etsy but I'm not sure what they call these?  They are handmade of course and made using scraps of fabric just like you would find on a quilt.  Does anyone know what they are called, in general, so that I could find more online?


Monday, July 21, 2014

HARVEST MONDAY JULY 21 2014

Every Monday, Daphne's Dandelions hosts "Harvest Monday" where bloggers can post their harvests.  Click her link above to see what others are harvesting and see below for what we harvested this week:

First up, herbs...

Herb harvest
As always, a great haul of herbs.  Oregano, chives, basil, some flat leaf parsley I forgot to photograph.  We've just been keeping them in the fridge in glasses of water and they stay fresh during the week and we use them up when we're cooking.

Then veggies...

Vegetable harvest
This week, it's like a basket from the show "Chopped". Make something out of this, LOL.  Our first eggplant.  Not sure what we can do with just one, ha, but there are a few more small ones on the plants and more blooms.  Also a few peppers and then jalapeños and more cherry tomatoes.  I picked a few that weren't fully ripe so we can let them ripen.  Then we have a few garlic heads!  Garlic didn't do so well this first year, these have been drying.  There are a few more that were pulled at a different time that are still drying, but I planted about 2 dozen seed bulbs.  Pulled up the tomatillo, it was just WAY too big and overshadowing the tomato plants.  There were still small tomatillos on it but I had to sacrifice them to hopefully get more tomatoes.    

And fruit...

Pears
Yes, fruit!  I suppose I should have included the several pounds of dewberries we got earlier in the season but I didn't (next year!).  Anyway, these are pears.  They are pretty good size (hard to tell in the photo).  There is apparently a procedure to ripen them, you have to pull them while hard and then force ripen them.  I'll have to Google that.  Anyway, we are happy to have some fruit.  Figs will be coming soon as well.  Then that will do it for fruit this year.  But the trees are all still growing well and so we are hoping next Spring will be a great year and then every year after that it will just get better!

Vegetable harvest:  2 lb 8 oz
Herb harvest:       11 oz
Fruit harvest:       1 lb 8 oz
_________________________________

Total harvest YTD:  12 lb 3 oz

Happy Harvesting!

P.S. For those who missed it, look at yesterday's post for a weekend update.  Hope you had a nice weekend!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

WEEKEND UPDATE

So we went to the farm and had a great weekend.  It was one of those times when I just didn't feel like doing anything, more like relax and enjoy, and that's what we did.

Here are some random pictures to share:


When we pulled up, one of 2nd Family's dogs, Kiska, was hanging out under the porch stairs in a little depression she made in ground.  It's cool and shady.  And she makes us smile, so it's a win/win...

Cloudy and overcast
The weather stayed mostly overcast, which was good to keep the temps down, a bit, upper 80's instead of upper 90's (a regular cold front, LOL).  It looked like rain, we hoped it would, but alas it didn't.

Dry earth
The reason we hoped for rain is this...there hasn't been any measurable rain at the farm in almost two weeks.  Quickly, the ground starts getting parched and cracks open up.  In Houston, parts of the area got a couple of inches last week, we had hoped the farm did too, but 50 miles between here and there had much different weather.

Figs
Figs are doing well, the trees are growing nicely.  I made sure and watered all the fruit trees, about 5 gallons each, just to make sure they are OK through the next week, in case rain stays away longer.

Passion flowers
Passion vines with their beautiful flowers are everywhere, so it's nice to see their unique look peeking out here and there.


Speaking of color, these (weeds?) are growing around the property.  We thought they would be soft but when we touched them, they are spiky and spiny and have sharp thorns.  Not sure what they are but they are pretty and that's fine with us.

Arroz con pollo
We had a big pot of Arroz con Pollo, some black beans with cilantro, homemade flour tortillas and sliced avocado.  It kept us full and happy.

It was a nice weekend!

We hope you had a great weekend yourselves!

Lastly, we want to thank you all for the outpouring of kind words that you all left after Saturday's post.  It warmed our hearts to read them!



FOODS FROM CORN, VINTAGE POSTER SUNDAY

Food From Corn, vintage poster image courtesy of NY Public Library
Here is another wartime poster image that reminded people how healthy and nutritious corn made products were.  During the war, other items such as regular sugar, flour, etc were in use for the troops and in short supply so corn was the 'at home' replacement.  Corn starch, corn oil, corn syrup, amazing how prevalent they are still.

Hope you are having a great weekend, we are good and our hearts are warmed by all your comments from yesterday's POST.  Thank you.

More later today!



Saturday, July 19, 2014

COMMENT MODERATION BACK ON

Many of you have noticed that we turned comment moderation back on.  It's not something we did because of spam.  We've moderated older comments for a while now because that's where the spammers usually hit most often.  But current comments on recents posts were not moderated.  Until now.  

No, the reason we did this was because of a couple of hateful comments that someone tried to slip through.  I caught them before they posted.  I won't reprint the threatening slur the person used in their 'name', except to say that it involved bodily harm and the "F word gay slur".  One of the notes asked "How do you live with yourselves?  Disgusting."

I wanted to post it and then reply, "just fine actually...we have a home in the city and a home in the country and we are on a journey to self sufficiency for our retirement...thanks for asking.  And you?"  Of course they call that "feeding the trolls" in online parlance, so I didn't allow the comments to appear.


We've been lucky so far.  We have had this blog going strong now for three years and never once heard a negative word.  Instead, we have 480 (and counting) new friends, plus lots of others that comment daily or occasionally or both, and countless more that just pop in to read but don't comment.  Many of you I have come to know through personal emails back and forth off the blog and we consider all of you dear friends.  To be honest, we just don't have time for hate.

We don't even like to watch the news now.  It's all politicians and political parties hating each other.  People hating each other.  Faiths hating each other.  Countries hating each other.  Can't the world just love?  Is that too pie in the sky?  Are my rose colored glasses too big?  Is that really too much to ask for?

The least I can do is make sure this blog has no room for hate and that's what I've done.  So for now, all comments will be moderated so that I don't have to expose all of you to that either.  When you post a comment, nothing will change except that it won't appear instantly.  But don't let that worry you, it will appear as quickly as possible via my computer or phone or tablet.  I didn't really want to bring all of this up here, but we've always said the blog will share the good and the bad.  Fire ants, snakes, garden fails, droughts or heavy rains, plans we didn't get to, those are the bad we expected.

Today we are off to the farm to enjoy our time away from news and negativity.  Hope you all have a great one!
Updates of course throughout the weekend.


Oh, and how do we live with ourselves?
Fine...just fine...life is good!


Friday, July 18, 2014

COLOR IS SLOWING COMING

We planted Knockout roses, only two of them as a test, by the garden gate.  They are blooming and growing.  Because they are drought tolerant, landscapers plant them everywhere in Houston, parking lots, esplanades, driveways etc.

The Texas lilacs, or Vitex/Chaste as they are also called, are all in full bloom along the the driveway.  They are doing well also...in fact, we need to get a few more so the whole driveway is lined.


I can't remember what these are called, they look like and are similar to oleander, but are not poisonous like the oleander is.  They are flowering as well.  We finally have some color!






FELINE FRIDAY

Sydney cat sleeping in sink
This is Sydney, back when he used to sleep in one of the bathroom sinks.  It was really the only one he could get into easily and it was wide enough to accommodate his size.

After a few years, we realized he only did this in the warmer months.  We're guessing because it was cool!  Can't say as we blame him.  We often thought of just laying in the bathtub during a heatwave, ha.

More later today!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

INTERESTING FLOWER GARDEN, INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Flower garden, image courtesy of www.housedecorin.com
This is an interesting little random flower garden image I found online.  Can anyone identify the flowers?  I think it's kind of pretty for some reason.  Maybe it's the combination of colors and textures...and the fact that it's a small little space with lots of color and 'pizazz', ha. 

Hope you are having a great week.  It's Thursday, and rainy here and tomorrow is supposed to be even wetter than today.  

Be inspired!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

MAYPOPS GROWING WILD

Maypops?  HUH?

Maypop
This is the maypop, also known as the passion vine or passion flower.  The name maypop comes from the fact that in May, when they are green and 'hollow', they can be stepped on and make a popping sound.

Passion Flower
It grows wild on the property at the farm.  Such a BEAUTIFUL flower.

Purple Passion Flower
And, according to THIS WEBSITE, the flowers become edible fruit!


Maypops bearing fruit
Here are some flowers that are still visible behind the fruit that they produced.  Then, the fruit gets larger until it's about the size of a large egg, as below.
Maypop or Passionfruit 
We SO want to eat one, just to try it, but the last couple of years, since we discovered this particular area on the farm that has them, we never seem to get to them before the birds/rabbits/deer do.  According to the website above, wild passion vines are somewhat rare in Texas, so I told 2nd Man that the area they are growing in needs to be sectioned off so we make sure it's never mowed down or cleared.

Now we just play the waiting game I suppose and see if we can get to them after they turn yellowish (a signed of being ripe).  Is this what becomes "passion fruit"?  Or is that something different?  They still aren't ripe, I just checked last weekend, but hoping they do ripen eventually so we can enjoy them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

EASY DEWBERRY JAM RECIPE

Several people have emailed and asked for the recipe I used for our

It really couldn't be easier:

Cooking dewberry jam
It's a very simple one to one ratio, and because it sets up so quickly when the heat is turned off, I found it easier to work in smaller batches.

Image above is 4 cups cooking at a time.

Canning dewberry jam
The 4 cups of berries with sugar will end up making about 5 pint jars.

Dewberry jam
Ingredients:

4 cups dewberries
4 cups sugar
1/2 pkg of pectin

Cook dewberries on medium heat until bubbling, smashing with a potato masher or a large fork while they are heating up (we like it chunky, it is jam, ha).

Once they are boiling, add the pectin.  Stir well and continue to simmer until it starts to thicken, usually just a few minutes.

Add the 4 cups of sugar all at once, stirring quickly to make sure it all dissolves. Return to a boil and continue boiling for 1 minute.  You should have your jars ready and ladle quickly into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.

Process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

Allow to cool for 24 hours, make sure all lids have sealed.

Enjoy!


DISCLAIMER:  I am by no means an expert canner, these steps are merely suggestions based on existing literature and recipes. The information provided does not constitute legal or professional advice. I have done my best to provide accurate and safe techniques. I make no guarantee to the quality of your results. It is important that you use proper hygiene and maintain a clean environment and tools and equipment when processing food.  Be sure and follow the recommendations for your altitude when processing canned goods.